Category Archives: Seder Recipes

Nargesi: A pie in love with itself.

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The name Nargesi comes from the Farsi word (Narges) for the Narcissus plant or daffodil, a sunny springtime flower (with either bright yellow petals and a deep orange center, or bright white petals with a deep yellow center) that has come to symbolize rebirth and renewal. This river bank flower is named after the Greek God Narcissus known for his extraordinary beauty, who subsequently drowned while admiring his reflection in a pool of water. Over time the term “narcissist” has come to define someone consumed with his or her own physical appearance or ego.

In my research on this dish I came across photos where instead of the eggs being scrambled with greens and herbs (as done in this recipe), the eggs were cracked open and poached directly on top of a bed of sauteed greens and onions, which visually resembles the Narges flower over leaves. I learned this unusual recipe from my friend Simona Shokrian, whose family would serve this for Passover. The resulting dish is more like a hearty frittata, mixed with herbs, spinach, and tiny meatballs, that you cut into wedges like a pie. Naima Abrishami suggests to sprinkle with lemou Omani (crushed Persian dried limes) to add a slight tangy flavor before serving.

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Nargesi (Persian Egg “Pie” with Leeks, Spinach, Turmeric, and Tiny Meatballs)

YIELD: SERVES 6 TO 8

INGREDIENTS

For Meatballs:
1 large (1/2 pound) white onion, pureed in food processor (should have about 1 cup)
1 pound ground turkey (dark meat better since it has some fat) or beef

For Nargesi:
2 tablespoons grape seed, safflower, or vegetable oil
1½ cups coarsely chopped yellow or white onions (about 1 large)
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon ground white or freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon turmeric
2 teaspoons ground cumin (optional)
1 cup finely chopped flat leaf parsley leaves
1 cup finely chopped coriander leaves or 1/3 cup tarragon leaves
½ cup finely chopped dill leaves
4 ounces coarsely baby spinach leaves (about 7 loose cups)
2 cups coarsely chopped leeks (use dark green and white parts only) rinsed in cold water and drained, or 1 cup coarsely chopped chives
¾ cup hot water
6 large eggs, lightly beaten

For Serving (optional):
2 tablespoons ground or crushed lemou Omani (dried Persian limes)
or 1 to 2 whole lemou Omani, ground in food processor

STEPS:
1. Drain the excess liquid from the puréed onions and mix with the ground meat in a medium bowl.

2. Heat a large 5- or 6- quart pot with oil over high heat for 1 minute. (Note: Your pot should be about 9 or 10 inches wide, but no more or the final pie will be too thin!) Add the chopped onions and cook until soft and transparent, about 5 minutes.

3. Add the salt, pepper, turmeric, and cumin (if desired) and mix well. Cook 1 minute.

4. Reduce to a medium-low heat. Wet your hands lightly with cold water (to prevent sticking) and taking only 11/2 teaspoons of the meat mixture, form it into a small, smooth meatball the size of a large cherry. (Meat will be very soft and wet, so be gentle.) Drop the meatball into the pot and continue until all of the meat mixture has been used up. Cover pot and steam until solid and cooked through, about 20 minutes.

5. Drop in the parsley, coriander (or tarragon), dill, spinach, and leeks (or chives) and cover.
Steam until the herbs and spinach have wilted and softened, 10 minutes.

6. Pour the hot water over the top and mix gently so as not to break meatballs. Bring to a boil over high heat, then cover, reduce to a medium heat, and cook for 15 minutes. Uncover and cool to room temperature, about 20 minutes. (Eggs will cook too quickly if added to mixture when very hot.)

7. Once nargasi has cooled, re-warm over medium-low heat for 2 minutes. Gradually pour in the beaten eggs while gently mixing with a spoon to distribute evenly. Partially cover and steam over lowest setting until eggs have solidified but are still soft and slightly wet in the center, 35 to 40 minutes.

8. Score and scoop out large pieces of the nargasi and arrange in layers onto a serving platter or plate. Serve warm with lemou Omani on the side for individuals to sprinkle on top of each serving, as desired.

Charazoti: Georgian Flavors Come Through in their Charoset.

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version of this charoset was described to me by Irina Kazhiloti. The walnuts, which are commonly found in Georgian cooking, are added in a larger quantity than the rest of the nuts, while the addition of pears and peeled chestnuts give it a thick texture similar to a pâté. Try serving this with one or two other charosets at your Seder table this year!

Charazoti 
(Georgian Style Pear and Wine-Soaked Raisin Spread
with Walnuts, Hazelnuts, and Chestnuts)

Yield: Serves 8 to 10 / Makes About 2 1/2 Cups

For Charazoti:
1 cup walnuts
1/2 cup hazelnuts
1/3 cup whole raw almonds
1/2 cup peeled and cooked chestnuts (fresh or packaged)
1 to 2 teaspoons sugar (optional)
Pinch of salt
2 ounces ripe pear, cut into cubes (about 1/2 cup)
4 ounces Red Delicious apple, cut into cubes (about 3/4 cup)
2/3 cup black raisins soaked in 2/3 cup sweet kosher for Passover red wine for 1 to 2 hours
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed orange juice

For Serving:
2 to 3 tablespoons finely chopped walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds (or mixture of all three)

STEPS:
1. Pulse walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds, chestnuts, sugar (if desired) and salt
in a food processor for about 30 seconds or just until coarsely ground and crumbly
(do not over grind).

2. Add the pieces of pear, apple, raisins (and the wine it was soaked in),
and orange juice and pulse until mixture becomes smooth and thick, almost like a pâté.

3. Place into an air-tight container and chill for 2 hours. Serve in one or two small decorative bowls garnished with chopped nuts. Charazoti may be store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Revisiting the Egyptian Sofrito: Test 3 is the charm.

had neither tasted nor even heard of a sofrito until one year while visiting family in France, my husband and I were invited to the home of Dinah Franco — a Sephardic Jew of Egyptian descent. Sofreír in Spanish means to sauté or “lightly fry,” and in Spanish, Portuguese, Caribbean and Latin American countries, a sofrito is a type of sauce made by cooking a lot of garlic, onions, and spices with various vegetables for a long period of time over low heat, so that it can be used as a base for cooking meat, other vegetables, beans or rice dishes.

The following recipe is one that I recreated after having tasted Dinah’s, which combines nutmeg, ginger, cloves, and turmeric, with a lot of garlic and onions. When I was first developing this dish I focused on getting the right balance of seasonings and ingredients down on paper, and when I later tested my recipe I found that the result was more like a soup than a stew. In this most recent third attempt I used a lot less liquid to braise the meat and cooked it over a lower heat for a longer period of time. The overall result was a thick, rich sauce that took on the flavor of the meat, and more of what a true sofrito should be.

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STEP 1: Gather and prep your ingredients (3 pounds beef stew pieces, 4 cups onions, parsley, 1 to 2 cups coriander leaves and/or parsley leaves, 4 to 5 tablespoons garlic, spices, 1 to 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, black pepper).

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THE SPICES: 1/4 teaspoon cloves, 1 teaspoon ginger, 2 teaspoons turmeric, and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg.

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STEP 2: Brown the meat in a large heavy-bottomed pot with a little oil over high heat, then pour into a separate bowl along with all of its liquid.

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STEP 3: Add a few tablespoons of oil to the same pot (no need to wash) and cook onions over medium-high heat until soft and transparent, but not browned. Add the garlic and while stirring, cook for 30 seconds.

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STEP 4: Add the spices, salt, and pepper, mix, and cook over medium heat for about 1 minute.

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STEP 5: Return browned meat and all of its liquid plus about 1 cup cold water to the pot. Add the chopped herbs and mix well. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a medium-low heat, cover, and simmer for 1 1/2 hours. Uncover and cook an additional 1/2 hour until sauce has reduced and meat is so soft it can be easily cut with a spoon. (Note: If you like, you can scatter a few cups of potato pieces over the top and cook it with the meat for the last 1/2 hour as well.)

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STEP 6: Dinner is served.

 

 

 

 

 

Four Generations Come Together for Algerian Boulettes with Green Peas

David Rak's grandmother Ginette (seated left), clockwise: David' mom X, David's Dad X, David's wife Jennifer, David (center), and his youngest daughter Léa

David Rak’s grandmother Ginette (seated left), David’s parents Nicole and Robert Rak (standing in back),                 David and Jennifer Rak (center and right), and their youngest daughter Léa (on David’s lap 🙂 )

Each spring, Ginette Cohen would pack her suitcase with quatre épices and a box of Spigol spice packets, and fly from France to New York City to visit her grandson David Rak for his birthday. In his tiny Harlem kitchen, she would prepare the dish that he most longed for: Les Boulettes, and a few weeks ago I was lucky enough to catch her on a visit and learn her secrets. Ginette explained to me that for other occasions, these meat patties would be coated in semolina and served over couscous, but during Passover they were instead dusted with matzah meal and served over steamed crushed matzah. Proudly served on all occasions, Boulettes gives delicious new meaning to Algerian-Jewish comfort food.

The following is a visual recipe for Boulettes:

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Step 1: Combine ground lamb and beef, eggs, broken up matzah, almond flour, onions, garlic salt, pepper, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, cinnamon, cumin, turmeric, saffron, mint, coriander, and parsley in a large bowl.

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Step 2: Roll meat into large balls and roll lightly in the semolina or matzah meal.

Step 3: Place all coated meatballs onto a cutting board or tray and flatten slightly into patties.

Step 3: Place all coated meatballs onto a cutting board or tray and flatten slightly into patties.

Step 4: Dip patties into beaten eggs.

Step 4: Coat patties into beaten eggs.

Step 5: Gently place patties into a pan with very hot oil to fry until dark golden-brown on both sides.

Step 5: Gently place into a pan with very hot oil and fry until dark golden-brown on both sides.

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Step 6: Simmer boulettes with peas in a broth made of water, onions, salt, turmeric, and saffron for 1 hour.

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Step 7: Serve!

 

Ethiopian Kit’ta: Matzah that’s made to order.

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Shmuel Legesse

One cold January morning, I ran down to meet with Shmuel Legesse and learn how to make Ethiopian style matzah. In Ethiopia, matzah is made just like it it had been done for the first Passover when the Jews were fleeing Egypt through the desert: By hand. And FAST. In each home, the women form an assembly line to produce each matzah one at a time, diligently following the 18-minute time limit from start to finish. After the flour, salt, and water have been mixed, the dough is quickly formed, rolled out into a pita-like size, and placed onto a flat clay pan called a Mitadt. The bread then bakes in this pan until it is crispy and browned on both sides, and brought to the table to be eaten immediately. The resulting bread is more like a thick cracker that is slightly pliable, with a taste that is nutty and earthy.

(Known as Kit’ta in Amharic,
and Kicha/Kitcha in the dialect of Tigrinya).

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YHAFESECA KIT’TA (Soft Ethiopian Passover Matzah)

Yield: Makes One 8- or 9-inch matzah

Dry Ingredients:
1/3 cup whole wheat flour
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Wet Ingredients:
2 teaspoons black sesame oil (not light brown Asian kind) or sunflower oil
2 ounces cold water

For Baking in Pan:
1 tablespoon black sesame oil or sunflower oil

STEPS:
1. Combine the dry ingredients in a medium size bowl.

2. Begin heating an 8- or 9-inch skillet (preferably non-stick or cast iron) over a medium-low heat.

3. Mix wet ingredients with the dry ingredients. Once liquid has been fully absorbed,
gather dough into a small ball.

4. Grease your hands with a little oil and briefly pound the ball with your fist in the bowl,
then quickly press ball down with your palm into a disk about 4 inches wide.

5. Place disk into the heated skillet and being careful not to burn yourself, gently press disk down
until it fills the size and shape of the pan. Using a dinner fork, press the back of the tines all over
the surface.

6. Raise heat to a medium-high flame and continue to cook until bottom becomes flecked with very dark brown spots, about 5 minutes. Flip bread over and cook second side an additional 3 minutes until browned. Remove from heat and serve immediately. Continue to prepare additional matzahs, one at a time (or if you can keep track of time, two at a time in two separate skillets.)

Still Time to Save Your Skins! (Huevos Haminados are coming.)

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AKA: Ouevos Haminados, Uevos Haminados or Güevos Haminadavos.

Two months before Passover, Deanna Marcus starts saving her onion skins (yellow, white, and red), while June Hersh remembers her mother telling the produce man to save them for her in anticipation of the holiday. Huevos means “eggs” in Spanish, and the word Haminados comes from the Hebrew word Cham meaning, “hot.” In the Sephardic world Huevos Haminados (browned whole eggs in the shell) are baked all year round, served alongside such pastries as cheese or potato borekas, or baked in the Shabbat stew known as Chamin/Hamin. When slow-cooked, the onion skins turn the whites of the eggs inside into a beautiful beige color, imparting a delicate caramel flavor. Shade and intensity of the egg’s color inside and out will depend on the quantity of the onion skins and coffee used, the variety of onions, and the length of time they cook (in the Yemenite tradition some add red wine vinegar as well). For Passover, one of the browned eggs is used for the Seder plate, while the rest are served as the first course to the dinner. The bottom line is, if you plan to prepare these delectable treats, you need a ton of onion skins. So start collecting now!

HUEVOS HAMINADOS (Browned Eggs with Onion Skins, Olive Oil & Coffee Grinds)
Yield: Serves 6 (Makes 6 Brown Eggs)

INGREDIENTS:
1 tablespoon coffee grinds
8 to 10 loosely packed cups onion skins (just the outermost thin brown layers)
½ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups cold water
6 large white eggs

STEPS:
1. Combine all of the ingredients except the eggs in a medium sized mixing bowl.

2. Create a nest at the bottom of a medium sized,
heavy-bottomed pot with half of the onion skin mixture.

3. Gently place the eggs on top of the onion skins,
then cover them with the remaining half of the onion skins.

4. Bring water to a boil over high heat and boil the eggs for 5 minutes.

5. Lower heat to the lowest setting on your stove, cover with a tight-fitting lid,
and steam the eggs until the shells obtain a caramel-brown color on the outside,
about 4 to 5 hours minimum. (Note: These eggs traditionally were slow-baked in the oven overnight,
so if you have the time you can do it that way or keep cooking the eggs on the stovetop for about
10 hours total.)

6. Rinse off the eggs and cool to room temperature before serving at the seder meal.
Leftover eggs may also be refrigerated to be eaten the next day as a delicious snack or
as part of a lunch.

Almodrote: Turkish Shredded Zucchini Pie with Sheep’s Milk Cheese and Yogurt

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During my fall trip to Roosevelt Island (see post, “Roosevelt Island: My Trip To Instanbul), I visited Jale Turcihin and she taught me how to make Amodrote, which in Izmir is (apparently) known as Frittata (sounds Ladino, no?). While it does contain cheese, in Jale’s home it was the Passover tradition to serve a variety of Amodrotes (eggplant, leek, spinach) before the main dishes came out (even if they contained meat). The combination of the Kaseri — a sheep’s milk cheese — with the yogurt gives a special tartness that to me is particularly Mediterranean (and reminds me of my own Syrian Kusa b’Jibbin (Squash Cheese Pie). In Jale’s home it was served with a small glass pitcher of a sugar syrup on the side, which when drizzled on top would give a sweet and salty taste, something one often finds in Sephardic cooking. It’s a great type of dish to learn for any meal or time of year, especially when you are looking for vegetarian options. And if the “dairy-before-meat-in-the-same-meal” custom doesn’t work for you, then save it as a dish for one of those long Passover days when you simply don’t know what else to prepare for dinner! 

Almodrote: Turkish Shredded Zucchini Pie with Sheep’s Milk Cheese and Yogurt
(Yield: Serves 8 to 10)

For Almodrote:
9 medium zucchini (don’t get them too big or they will be too watery!)
½ teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups coarsely grated Kasseri / Kasheri cheese, or other hard, sharp sheep’s milk cheese
(about 1 pound total for pie itself and topping together)

4 large eggs (should be 1 cup total), lightly beaten
¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons plain whole milk yogurt
¾ cup matzah meal

For Baking:
1 tablespoon pure olive oil or canola oil
2 tablespoons matzah meal
½ cup grated kasseri cheese

1. Peel the outside of each zucchini lengthwise so that you create dark green and light green ½-inch stripes, about ½ inch apart (the peeled part will be light green and the dark part will be the dark green skin, about ½ inches wide).

2. Coarsely grate each zucchini by hand or in the food processor and pour into a large colander. Lightly toss with ½ teaspoon of kosher salt with your hands, place colander in a baking pan or the sink, and drain for at least two hours in order to extract excess liquid.

3. Working one handful at a time, scoop out and squeeze the zucchini even further to discard any excess liquid before placing it into a separate mixing bowl  (you should have about 6 cups of grated zucchini once liquid has been drained and squeezed). Discard all drained liquid.

4.  Add 2 cups of the grated cheese (reserving remaining ½ cup for top), eggs, yogurt, and ¾ cup of the matzah meal to the zucchini, and squeeze mixture together with your hands until soft and fully blended.

5. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.; coat just the bottom of an 8- or 9-inch x 13-inch baking pan with the 1 tablespoon of oil, then sprinkle the bottom evenly with the 2 tablespoons of matzah meal.

6. Pour the zucchini-cheese mixture into the pan and spread out evenly with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle top with the remaining ½ cup of grated cheese and place on middle rack of the pre-heated oven to bake until top become a dark brown color, about 1 hour and 15 minutes (pie should be soft but solid enough that when you gently shake pan it doesn’t appear too watery in center).

7. Remove from oven and cool about 20 to 30 minutes to set. Serve warm or at room temperature.

©Jennifer Felicia Abadi:  www.TooGoodToPassover.com / jabadi@FistfulofLentils.com

 

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